The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Celebrant turned zoo keeper

Friday, 23 January 2015



Posted by Wendy Coulton

I think my neighbours must have been impressed when they saw me clear out space in my garage this month. But the truth is I had no choice. You see, next week it will be the new home for the eye-catching and thought provoking centre piece for a free public event I have organised about end of life matters in my home city Plymouth.

My garage will be the temporary enclosure for an extra large paper mache elephant (as if sourcing one in the first place wasn’t difficult enough!) until it hopefully will stop people in their tracks at Plymouth Central Library at The Elephant in the Room event on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th March 2015.

The saying ‘elephant in the room’ refers to an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to acknowledge or talk about. And that is exactly what I have witnessed too often with bereaved families in distress, conflict and hardship because no preparation was discussed or made for death.

My response to this was to get 15 respected speakers all under one roof across this two day event to cover a wide range of end of life topics including:

*  money and legal matters before and following death

*  health and social care issues like choosing where to die and the identity loss carers may experience when the person they have looked after dies

*  last wishes

*  organ donation

*  what to do when you suspect someone may be suicidal

*  what happens at the crematorium

*  business succession planning for the self-employed and small firms

*  the work of the coroner; and

*  bereavement care for children and young people

There will also be a Death Cafe discussion forum and information stands in the advice hub.

The aim of this free event is to encourage people to come in and find out more about their choices and key issues they may need to consider and plan for in the future.

Wouldn’t it fantastic if just as university open days, wedding fayres and recruitment events are commonplace, we could establish at least annually a similar approach to a focus on end of life issues and services?

 More event detail will be posted in February on



10 comments on “Celebrant turned zoo keeper

  1. Tuesday 17th March 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Wendy
    Just hoping you have a storming success and lots of visitors [and press coverage?] for your Elephant in the Room events next week. Such a fabulous idea but hope the organisational headaches haven’t taken their toll.

    I can’t wait to see photos of the elephant and like Andrew [who is just up the road from us in Cambs] am tempted to ask to borrow it. With full attribution of course!!

    • Tuesday 17th March 2015 at 5:09 pm

      I’m going, Hilary, and I’m going to try and smuggle the heffalump back with me on the train. If I succeed, you may share him/her.

  2. Wednesday 28th January 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Fantastic – I LOVE this idea. Now, check out this L O N G interview and the elephant could go places. I’m in your tribe – same one as Andrew.

  3. Saturday 24th January 2015 at 9:19 am

    Entirely brilliant idea, hope it goes really well. Who knows, in a year or two people may be wearing eloquent little elephant lapel badges/pins to remind people that life ends, a fact that needs our attention from time to time if we are to live fully in this world.

    Picnic, Lightning

    It is possible to be struck by a

    meteor or a single-engine plane while

    reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians

    are flattened by safes falling from

    rooftops mostly within the panels of

    the comics, but still, we know it is

    possible, as well as the flash of

    summer lightning, the thermos toppling

    over, spilling out on the grass.

    And we know the message can be

    delivered from within. The heart, no

    valentine, decides to quit after

    lunch, the power shut off like a

    switch, or a tiny dark ship is

    unmoored into the flow of the body’s

    rivers, the brain a monastery,

    defenceless on the shore. This is

    what I think about when I shovel

    compost into a wheelbarrow, and when

    I fill the long flower-boxes then

    press into rows the limp roots of red

    impatiens — the instant hand of Death

    always ready to burst forth from the

    sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then

    the soil is full of marvels, bits of

    leaf like flakes off a fresco,

    red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick

    to burrow back under the loam. Then

    the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the

    clouds a brighter white, and all I

    hear is the rasp of the steel edge

    against a round stone, the small

    plants singing with lifted faces, and

    the click of the sundial as one hour

    sweeps into the next.

    Billy Collins

  4. Friday 23rd January 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I love this idea Wendy. Please may I borrow your elephant?

    • Saturday 24th January 2015 at 8:02 am

      If you have the transport I would trust you with my elephant Andrew. Thought it was good to physically have an elephant with us when we listen to the talks to reinforce the point. Hobbycraft was very helpful.

  5. Friday 23rd January 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Terrific idea to cover so many topics. I love the elephant mnemonic, which will catch people. Good luck with it all. James

    • Saturday 24th January 2015 at 8:03 am

      Thanks for your encouragement James. If the public response is anything as good as that of the participants it will work.

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